Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Wonder Woman Returns

Given all the attention Wonder Woman has been getting lately, she just might steal the show from the upcoming Superman v. Batman.  Initially, she appeared to be little more than an afterthought, a way to attract women to the second installment in the rebooted Superman series.  However, the selection of Gal Gadot as the Amazonian warrior princess seems more a fulfillment of teenage boys' wet dreams than it does the feminist ideal originally envisioned by William Moulton Marston in 1941, although Marston seemed to enjoy his puerile fantasies as well.

To read this article by Jill Lepore in the New Yorker, Wonder Woman has undergone quite a transformation since she debuted in Sensation Comics in January, 1941.  She followed pretty closely on the heels of Superman and Batman, which premiered in 1938 and 1939 respectively.  Wonder Woman evolved considerably during the war to accentuate the American woman's role in WWII, combining feminism with patriotic duty.  After the war, DC decided to domesticate Wonder Woman and she pretty much fell into obscurity until revived on the cover of a 1972 issue of Ms. magazine.

Wonder Woman once again came to embrace the values of feminism in the tumultuous 70s.  Her increased popularity led to a television show starring Lynda Carter, who better fit the role than did Cathy Lee Crosby in a television movie in 1974. Plus, the television series took Wonder Woman back to her 1940s origin, whereas the previous movie had tried to fit her in the 70s.

This revival was short lived and Wonder Woman returned to comics and animated features, often in a supporting role.  Interest peaked again in 2011 when NBC released a pilot with Adrianne Palicki in the lead role, but scuttled the anticipated series.  So now we have Gal Gadot trying to fit the warrior princess's costume.  She hasn't exactly been a fan favorite, but then the new movie has been under a cloud of criticism ever since it was first proposed and its release pushed forward again to 2016.

Superman v. Batman is more or less based on Frank Miller's 1986 graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns, in which an aged Batman finds himself using highly advanced technology, essentially turning himself into Iron Man, to fight the ageless Superman in a Battle Royale.  Wonder Woman was reduced to a helpless spectator, as she had lost her golden lasso as well as her eternal youth.  I guess that kind of cynicism doesn't fit well in Hollywood, where youth is served once again.

It seems to me the door is still open to a new movie or television series that reflects the feminist struggle over the decades since her debut.  Someone like Lynda Carter would be perfect for the role, as she has undergone her own metamorphosis since the 70s but hasn't appeared to have lost her beauty or her strength.  Here she is visiting the Wonder Woman Family Museum in Bethel, Connecticut, much to the delight of the oldest son of William Moulton Marston.

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